Bharti Airtel to stop Jio from pouching 2G subscribers by launching cheap 4G phones

MUMBAI: The battle between Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel is heating up again. Bharti Airtel is now in talks with handset players in the country to launch affordable smartphones. A recent report stated that Reliance Jio would soon launch budget to entry-level devices running Android OS. Back in July, at the AGM of Reliance Industries, search giant Google stated it would be investing a whopping Rs 33,737 crores in Jio Platforms. As part of this partnership, Jio will soon bring smartphones with Android OS at low-cost. In a move tackle Jio, Airtel also entered into talks with multiple smartphone brands so that it can also launch the same affordable devices running Android.
In India, there’s no trend of locked smartphones. In the United States and several other Western markets, telecom operators partner with smartphone brands to launch devices bundled with tariff plans and monthly payment options. Now, Bharti Airtel is also exploring the same option in India. According to various source familiar with the matter, Airtel is currently exploring both locked and unlocked bundling of smartphones with various local Indian brands all though when we reached out to Airtel they did not respond to our queries.
As you might be aware of already, Reliance Jio is an LTE-only telco, whereas Airtel and Vodafone Idea are GSM operators. With the launch of affordable 4G phones in partnership with Google, Jio might take away the 2G and 3G users of Airtel and Vodafone Idea. Airtel is planning to tackle this move by partnering with local brands and providing affordable devices with bundled tariff plans to the subscribers. This will also help the telco convert its existing 2G userbase to 4G.
Airtel 5G Devices and Fiber Plus Mesh plan
Airtel is also planning to offer Fiber Plus Mesh plan which enables users to browse up to 300 Mbps speed till 500GB per month. Airtel is currently offering unlimited local and STD calls to any network across India. As per our sources, Airtel is also planning to bundle every service under one package rather than customers going for an independent plan including its future 5G offerings as well. Airtel is also having massive MIMO which is a key enabler for pre-5G technology that will make the network future ready for meeting the data demand.
In the past, we have seen Bharti Airtel partnering with local brand Celkon as part of ‘Mera Pehla Smartphone’ initiative. Under the Mera Pehla Smartphone programme, Airtel offered 4G smartphones at an effective price. Customers had to make a down payment after which they will have to recharge monthly (specific amount) to keep the phone active. Our source did not reveal whether Airtel is planning to resume ‘Mera Pehla Smartphone’ initiative or not. If Airtel’s partnership with local brands is anywhere close to what overseas telcos are providing, it will attract a lot of first-time smartphone buyers.

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